Thank You, Dr. Swanson
This morning at 9, I had an hour long consult with Dr. Laurie Swanson at Waukegan Pet Clinic. Dr. Swanson is a large and comforting take no nonsense kinda of person - my favorite type of person in the whole world. She reminds me a lot of my internist in Massachusetts, Dr. Oberst, who I adored beyond belief. Despite the fact that her office is not fancy, she is very up on cutting edge health issues for animals and yet also knows how to find a nice balance between what is right for the cat and what is right for the person, while being compassionate for both. I wish I could have found her two years ago, before we got into the clutches of the cat only clinic.
We spent a lot of time going over Leo's medical records, his history as a barn rescue, his reactions to various medications, his penchant for bodily injury (human) when receiving medical attention, etc etc. I told her how bad things have gotten in the last three weeks, including his forays onto the stove and his disinterest in just about everything and his accidents. She told me she thought I had made the right decision not to have the biopsy done last year because it is too invasive for an already fragile and elderly cat, which meant a lot to me as the other vet had made me feel guilty for not agreeing to do it. She did mention that they are seeing a new parasitical infection in cats that could be causing his problems, but that it is so rare and they have not yet discovered any way to treat it that it does not make sense to pursue it as a reasonable line of inquiry.
We spent a long time talking about the other two options - euthanasia and one last attempt at medication. I told her about the coversation I had with Leo and she told me she has those conversations with her cats, as well, and that it is generally right to listen to them. And I thought I was doing really well, until one of the clinic cats came in the room and jumped on my lap and headbutted me and I dissolved into a milksop and bawled.
And the vet said, "Leo may be ready but you aren't. Let me make a suggestion. Among vets, we like to say in cases like this that no one should die without the benefit of steroids." She recommended a two week course of steroids for several reasons. First, it will tell us if there is any realistic hope. The steroids will either lead to an immediate downturn in his health, in which case he is untreatable and his passing is inevitable, and the best thing I can do is ease his suffering. Or he will have an upswing, and two weeks will show us if the upswing makes enough of an improvement to his quality of life that it makes sense to pursue this as a long-term course of treatment. And finally, it is the last reasonable course of action that I can take that doesn't involving dipping into my (admittedly meager) life savings, and her feeling is that by the end of it, I will be able to come to a point where I can say I did all I could do, I did all that I should have done as a good cat mom, and I am ready to let go now.
Before I left, she also said one last thing that made me feel a lot better. Leo has never been a normal cat. He has always been pretty fragile. And the vet said that for a cat to come from Leo's background and to live as long as he has with most of those years without any serious medical issues is very rare and that I must be doing something right. She also complimented me on having raised another even older kitty who is as strong as an ox and with the attitude of a despot.
And who can't like a vet who uses the word "despot"?